GEAR REVIEW – First Look at the 2016 DMM Dragon 2 Cams (New for 2016).
The DMM Dragon 2 cams have been re-engineered in the 2016 release, and they are a true work of art and feat of engineering. Where other companies have opted to cut weight, sacrificing durability and strength rating, DMM has chosen to go a different direction – focusing on safer placements in slick and soft rock.
DMM has incorporated an 8mm dyneema extendable sling that does not compromise the cam’s strength rating when extended. Dyneema absorbs less water than nylon (the sling used for Black Diamond C4 cams). In using dyneema slings instead of nylon, DMM has created an alpine work horse of a cam. While this revised version of the dragon cams are marginally heavier than the Black Diamond Ultralight C4 cams, the extendable sling significantly reduces the quantity of alpine draws one must tote along, which makes the weight of a Dragon 2 cam comparable to, if not lighter than, the newly released Black Diamond C4 Ultralight cam (assuming your alpine draw consists of a conservative 60cm Black Diamond 10mm dynex runner (19g) and Black Diamond Oz carabiner (28g), an additional 47g per extended cam). A full comparison of DMM Dragon 2 Cams, Black Diamond C4, and Black Diamond C4 Ultralight cams can be found at the end of this review or by clicking here.
DMM Dragon 2 Cam on a snowy placement of ‘Enter the Dragon’, a mixed alpine climb in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
The lobes of the Dragon 2 cams are what sets this cam a bar above other cams. DMM has engineered a “TripleGrip” cam lobe which provides a substantially better grip; the finish is raw making the lobes less slick on slick rock, the lobes are wider and machined so that the surface area in contact with the rock is dramatically increased.
DMM Dragon Cam (left) vs. Dragon Cam 2 (right)
The standout, massive difference in design of the DMM Dragon 2 cams is the incorporation of a thumb press, as opposed to the thumb loop that Black Diamond C4 users are accustomed to. WAIT?! NO THUMB LOOP?! Yes, I too was skittish with the exclusion of a thumb loop, but the majority of my climbing style is free-climbing so it was apparent while climbing that it was a non-issue for me. I did reach out to DMM and speak with their brand support liaison for an explanation of the thumb loop exclusion in their design and their response was to maintain a higher strength rating. Inclusion of a thumb loop with the extendable sling would have compromised their crazy high strength ratings.
DMM Product Manager: “[It’s] due to our belief that an extendable sling is better for reducing drag and weight and that we like 8mm dyneema … therefore the strongest and smoothest way is to have a hot forged thumb [press] with two holes rather than a thumb loop and our strength ratings speak for themselves!”
Thumb press – DMM Dragon (left) vs. DMM Dragon 2 (right)
So far, I have had the opportunity to test these sexy cams on alpine exploits in Rocky Mountain National Park and trad missions in South Platte, Colorado. My rack consisted of a mix of Black Diamond C4 cams and DMM Dragon 2 Cams, and found myself reaching for the DMM Dragon 2 cams for snowy/icy placements and awkward cracks. The most standout feature is how well they bite the rock when placed.
Cam lobes – BD C4 (left) vs. DMM Dragon 2 Cam (right)
Bottom Line – The DMM Dragon Cams are an alpine work horse and a more durable, full-strength alternative to Black Diamond Ultralight C4 Cams.
- Extendable dyneema sling, full strength – perfect for alpine and ice climbing; dyneema absorbs less water than nylon webbing. Extendable nature of sling cuts down on quantity of alpine draws you need to rack to extend placements in hope of reducing rope drag.
- Cam lobes – Super sticky, widened lobes have less of a tendency to walk and place well in wet/slick placements.
- Range – placement range is generous thanks to the dual axle design (eight sizes, 00-6, cover a range from 13.6-114mm).
- Flexible single stem – can withstand forces exerted by falling on suboptimal placements (i.e., horizontal crack placements).
- Thumb Loop – the lack of a thumb loop makes the Dragon Cams a non viable option for aid climbing. For free climbers, this is a non issue but worth mentioning for big wall climbers where aid is the prerogative.
- Sizes – No big boy cams for the wide stuff. The largest size, Dragon Cam #6 is equivalent to a Black Diamond C4 #4.
- 8mm dyneema sling – Super skinny dyneema sling will likely need to be replaced more often than a nylon sling. Will re-evaluate this in the long-term review after a season of heavy use.
*NOTE: DMM Dragon 2 Cams reduce the quantity of extendable runners and carabiners you must carry. To extend one Black Diamond C4/C4 Ultralight you would require one 60cm runner and at least one carabiner (an alpine draw utilizes two carabiners). For reference, one Black Diamond 60cm 10mm dynex runner is 19g and one Oz carabiner is 28g, an additional weight of 47g per cam you intend to extend.